Note from the founders: Todays post is a personal story shared from Laura who breastfed for 10 months. She began supplementing at 6 months, because that was the right choice for her and her baby. We are so grateful to Laura for writing this blog for us, so we can all share tips and tricks for this crazy breastfeeding journey! Thank you Laura!! Check out more from Lauren here:
When I was pregnant, I was acutely aware of the pressures women face to breastfeed. I was shocked at how common the question came my way, even before my little dude was born. “Are you planning to breastfeed?” and “How long do you think you will breastfeed for?”. I was already struggling with my prenatal mental health, so I made a promise to myself that I would give breastfeeding my best go, but if it did not work out for me for whatever reason, I was not going to beat myself up about it. Ha! So much easier said than done.
It is interesting to look at the history of breastfeeding in the United States. The pendulum has once again swung to where breastfeeding is becoming more widely accepted, and hopefully it stays this way! But I also hope that our pro-breastfeeding society does not go so far as to ostracize formula-feeding or combo moms. I live in sunny southern California where I feel blessed to see beautiful displays of mothers nursing regularly in public. It seems to be in the most beautiful way. Covered by the chic-est of nursing covers and seemingly completely at ease. Being in this type of environment inspired my journey.
My little dude was a month early. He came in at a whopping 5lbs 2oz. And despite that, he started nursing like a champ right away. I had an un-medicated birth, and he nuzzled right up to my breast and started suckling just as I had read that he might. Everyone was so surprised at how furiously he was nursing, even being so little and new. This was short-lived. I had spent so much time worrying about not sleeping, that I never even stopped to think about what a problem it would be if my baby would not wake up to eat, and he was our sleepy preemie. We tickled his ear and laid cold hands on him, all to get his sweet little eyes to open and try to get him to take some food. We were visiting the lactation consultant weekly for weigh ins. Perhaps the most challenging part was the supplemental finger feedings. We had a contraption with a little tube that we would pour pumped breastmilk into. My husband would don a gloved finger and try to elicit the sucking reflex and get him to take the breastmilk. I was breastfeeding, finger feeding and pumping around the clock. It was impossible to feel like you were succeeding. I would measure our success in the size of his clothes, which told me that he was still wearing preemie size at 2 months old. I would measure our success in the percentiles that printed out on our sheets at the pediatricians’ office, which told me he was < 1st percentile for weight. I would perseverate over his eating and his weight. I would Google everything and try anything to help. Fortunately, that led me to being able to try several things I felt contributed to my success (see must-haves below). But now, 10 months in, little dude is doing fantastic and my hindsight is 20/20. I realize now that there are many things I should not have been so anxious about. Things always have a way of working themselves out. Why is it so hard for new moms to take that simple advice? If I ever have a second child, I will have a much better perspective on breastfeeding, and feeding in general (ha! I tell myself that now…)
Perhaps one of the best discoveries during this journey was the fact that I found solace in the online community of moms going through the same struggles I was. The camaraderie was palpable, and it was a huge factor in getting me through the first several months. Now that my little dude is almost a year old, I feel like I want to give that back to the mom community and write about my struggles, my wins and all of the best online shopping I did in the middle of the night during feedings.
Best advice I have for new nursing mamas? Trust yourselves. While breastfeeding may not come easily or feel natural, you will get to know your baby in those early weeks better than you realize. Give yourself the grace to learn a new skill, and be kind to yourself if you realize it’s not for you.